“There Does Not Need to Be a Choice Between Profits and Social Responsibility”


Satell Institute member Steve Cohen says companies benefit in multiple ways when they give back to their communities and work for the greater good

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Steve Cohen knows a lot about free enterprise, performance, and business leadership. A longtime partner at Morgan Lewis, Cohen has built a robust law practice working with emerging companies, venture capital and private equity on financing and global M&A transactions. Along the way he’s also become a big believer in Corporate Social Responsibility.

On that journey, Cohen, an SI member, has traveled a unique path. Crucial to building both his law practice and his appreciation of CSR, he says, has been an embrace of meditation practice and mindfulness.

In this conversation, Cohen, who co-founded the nonprofit Meditation4Leadership, talks about mindfulness and why mindful CEOs who embrace Corporate Social Responsibility create not just stronger communities, but also stronger companies. And he explains the power the Satell Institute has to make a difference.

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I’ve been a lawyer at Morgan Lewis…
…for 33 years. I represent emerging businesses and venture capital firms that invest in those types of businesses and work with those companies to realize the benefits of their efforts.

The focus on companies that give back to the community…
…is a much more common theme among investors in the last few years. I work with Impact Capital Managers, which is a national impact investing group. They started with a dozen members, and over the last five years they’ve grown to over 100 funds that have over $15 billion under management that are focused on a double or triple bottom line. The companies create social benefit – however they define that – in addition to positive investment returns.

There does not need to be a choice…
…between profits and social responsibility. A socially responsible path leads to providing value to company stakeholders and to long-term sustainability, which leads to employee and customer recruitment and retention, which can ultimately lead to maximizing profitability while serving the greater good.

A turning point in my own career came…
….a  week after my 45th birthday. I got what I call my big break: I ruptured my Achilles tendon. I had 10 weeks off while I recuperated, and I started a daily meditation practice. I also started  reading about the benefits of mindfulness and going to some retreats and really developing the practice.

Within two years my legal practice had tripled. My relationships with my family, friends and others had dramatically improved. I started seeing all these benefits in my life.

I tried to figure out where it was all coming from, and ultimately I was able to tie each of the personal growth traits to my daily meditation practice. And I thought, well, this is amazing, why isn’t everyone doing this?

When it comes to meditation, most people…
…have a complete misunderstanding of what it is. Meditation is not trying to get your mind to stop thinking. Your mind creates thoughts like your stomach digests food, like your lungs breathe air—it’s what your mind does.  What meditation is is being in the present moment with your full attention and without judgement. And believe me, without judgement is the hardest part.

Mindfulness helps you in business and life because…
…by practicing listening to yourself in mediation, you practice listening to others. When you quiet down the chatter of your mind, things that come to you are things like gratitude and love for others — not hate, anger or resentment. And you learn to take a moment when you’re agitated and, instead of just reacting, you learn to respond instead of react, and really that makes all the difference.

For CEOs and business executives, the next evolution of mindfulness…
…is really conscious leadership. Once you’re aware, how do you lead more consciously? It’s just a logical extension of achieving the potential one can achieve in the organizations in which you are active and in the world.

At Meditation4Leadership, we’re focused on spreading the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. And not just as a wellness platform – but also with leadership development skill building programs to help you become the best version of yourself personally and professionally.

I was introduced to the Satell Institute…
…through Alan Cohn from Sage Financial. He’s been telling me how good it is for a couple of years now, and he invited me to the most recent conference. I was really impressed with what the Institute has done, and I’m happy to be a part of it and try to add value.

At the Satell Institute…
…there is a spirit of collaboration. No matter how great any one person is, there is only so much they can do alone. The Satell Institute event brought together leaders in various industries with various skills, abilities and relationships to consider a major topic of societal interest. While one can’t micromanage the result from all of the conversations in the room that day, relationships were made, ideas were shared and alliances are beginning to implement those ideas that were initiated. That’s powerful.

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